Letter to Honorable Congressman Chris Smith: Defense of Human Rights in Oromia – Ethiopia

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Honourable Congressman,

We, members of Oromia Global Forum (OGF), a global alliance of Oromo Civic, Professional, and Faith-Based Organizations and individual Human Rights defenders and activists, residing in North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa, would like to sincerely thank you for all your efforts and contributions to the defense of human rights of nations and nationalities in the Ethiopian Empire.

Your support of the Oromo people and Ethiopian people at large during the difficult times of the previous 27 years under the brutal EPRDF regime is very much appreciated. You, along with Chairwoman Bass introduced house resolution 128, ‘Supporting Respect for Human Rights and Encouraging Inclusive Governance in Ethiopia’ and were instrumental in getting it passed in the House on April 10, 2018.

We have watched and listened to your recent remarks on the ‘Unfolding Conflict in Ethiopia’ on the congressional hearing held on December 3, 2020, and thank you for your continued support.

The Oromo youth called Qeerroo waged a disciplined and relentless peaceful struggle that started in 2000 and intensified from 2014 to 2018 against the brutal EPRDF regime. During this peaceful struggle, over 5000 young Oromos lost their precious lives, hundreds of thousands of Oromos were injured, jailed and displaced. Their sacrifices, together with the rest of the country, ushered in new hope in 2018 when the TPLF dominated EPRDF was forced to make changes that propelled Abiy Ahmed to the premiership.

Abiy promised to prepare the country for a free and fair election and ultimately foster the emergence of a genuine culture of democracy within the remaining two years of EPRDF’s term. Unfortunately, after a few months into his premiership, Abiy began relapsing into the same old tactics reneging on his promises. Ignoring the sacrifices of thousands of Oromo youth and other citizens of the country, he vowed to return Ethiopia to its so called glory days.  This implies the return of imperial times when one language, one culture and one identity dominated at the expense of maintaining unity in diversity. This can be achieved only by erasing the gains of nations and nationalities over the past three decades. The basic demands of the Oromo people for real self-determination to decide their own fate on their own ancestral land, to elect and be governed by their own representatives, to freely use their language and culture by having their language as a federal language in the context of the constitutionally enshrined multinational federal system were ignored.  He went on installing statues after statues for the emperors known for their genocidal and brutal acts against marginalized nations and nationalities of the country. By forming his new party called the Prosperity Party, he began promising to annul the existing multinational federal system that put the country together. His government began targeting the Oromo youth (Qeerro) that brought about the change that made him the  country’s PM. This has caused immense resentment among the Oromos.

The Oromo people, together with the Southern Peoples and nations were incorporated into the Abyssinian Empire by Emperor Menelik 2nd at the end of the 19th century.  With a population of about 50 million, the Oromos currently makeup at least 40% of the country’s population. Menelik’s conquest was supported by foreign arms suppliers and by local collaborators.  Since then, the Oromos have been waging an uninterrupted struggle against this settler form of colonial oppression for the last 150 years. Oromos were a free people before this conquest and lived under the Gadaa system, an  Oromo’s indigenous democratic socio-political system. The Gadaa system has been Inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity at UNESCO.

In this context, the Oromo Liberation Front has been struggling to assert the self-determination right of the Oromo people. The leadership of the OLF went back to Ethiopia to achieve their objectives via peaceful means of struggle. Today, most of the leadership of the OLF are languishing in jails. Jawar Mohammad, one of the prominent leaders of Qeerroo’s nonviolent movement that brought about the change that catapulted Abiy Ahmed to the highest office of the land , is a firm believer in nonviolent resistance, justice, equality and freedom for all citizens of the country. Jawar warned against the unfolding conflict between Abiy’s regime and the TPLF and called for a peaceful end to the Tigray war. Jawar Mohammad is an Ivy League graduate who left the comfort of his home in the US and went back to Ethiopia to make a difference through nonviolent means of struggle. Abiy has put him in jail as he found him to be a threat to his winning in any free and fair election.

The Honorable Congressman,

We would also like to bring to your attention that there is a hidden war against the Oromo people in Oromia.  Proir to and after the assassination of the renowned Oromo musician Hacaaluu Hundessaa, all major political opponents including Hailu Regasa, Gemechu Ayyana, Jawar Mohammad, Beqele Garba and many othe OLF (Oromo Liberation Front) and OFC (Oromo Federalist Congress) leaders have been thrown in to jail. At least 100,000 Oromos have been jailed as political prisoners for no other reason other than demanding their God-given human rights and for being Oromos. Schools have been changed to makeshift prisons. Extrajudicial killings are now the norm all over Oromia and the remains of the deceased are thrown out in the bushes and devoured by wild carnivores. Mothers and daughters are raped; torture, displacement and harassment are rampant. Oromia, the administrative Regional State of the Oromos has been turned to hell by Abiy and his security forces. Amnesty International has published its findings of some of the human rights violations in 2019. It has also published about rape , extrajudicial executions, homes set alight in security operations in Amhara and Oromia. Attached, please find a graphic image of some of the earlier gruesome killings and stories of atrocities for your information.

Honourable Congressman,

The extrajudicial killings of Oromos are still continuing unabated. Every week, at least about 10 people are taken out of prison and murdered and their bodies thrown to ravines, river sides and to the bushes. In many cases, security forces prevent relatives from conducting funeral processions and having the proper burial of their loved ones. These atrocities are committed by Special Forces deliberately trained like the Janjaweed militia of Sudan to eliminate any opposition to Abiy and his regime. We in Oromia Global Forum appreciate all your support and contribution to upholding the human, individual and collective rights of Ethiopian citizens, nations and nationalities, and seek your continued support to achieve the following:

  • The release of all political prisoners
  • An independent investigation into all the killings, including the assassination of Artist Hacaaluu Hundessaa
  • Lifting of the military rule by command posts all over Oromia,
  • Establishment of an all-inclusive transitional government that respects the existing constitution and multinational federal system through which nations and nationalities can exercise their rights to self-determination,
  • A commitment to prepare the country for a free and fair election to transition to democracy and
  • Secession of all hostilities and provision of the guarantee to life of every citizen of the country.

Ethiopia cannot go back to its history of genocide, occupation and repression of nations and nationalities herded together by force and coercion. Abiy’s stated commitment to take the country back to its so-called old glory of imperial system of institutionalized serfdom and slavery of the Oromos and the Peoples of the South, would only lead to devastating civil war, distablizing the horn of Africa, causing unforeseen security problems and humanitarian crisis.  

We are convinced that a stable, peaceful and democratic Horn of Africa will be a better US partner in ensuring peace and stability in other parts of Africa and around the globe.

Thank you for your continued support.

With highest regards,

Oromia Global Forum

Laurel Ave, Suite 5219

Tacoma Park, MD20913

Email: oromiaglobalforum@gmail.com

Phone: 612-483-0161

CC: Chairwoman Karen Bass

Signatories:

1. Advocacy4Oromia

2. Bilal Oromo Dawa Center

3. Canaan Oromo Evangelical Church

4. Charismatic International Fellowship Church

5. DMV Oromo Islamic Center

6. FOCAS

7. Gaadisa Sabboontottaa KP

8. Global Gumii Oromial

9. Global Oromo Advocacy Group

10. Global Waaqeffannaa Council

11. Horn of Africa Genocide Watch

12. Human Rights League of the Horn of Africa

13. International Oromo Lawyers Association

14. International Oromo Women’s Organization

15. International Qeerroo Support Group

16. Network of Oromo Studies

17. Mana Kiristaanaa Fayyisaa Addunyaa

18. Oromo Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church

19. Oromo Communities’ Association of North America

20. Oromo Community of Bergen

21. Oromo Community of Columbus Ohio

22. Oromo Community of Oslo

23. Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church of Los Angeles

24. Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Church of Washington DC Metropolitan Area

25. Oromo Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society

26. Oromo Human Rights and Relief Organization

27. Oromo Lutheran Church of Baltimore

28. Oromo Parliamentarians Council

29. Oromo Political Prisoners Association

30. Oromo Relief Organization, ORA in USA

31. Oromo Resurrection Evangelical Church

32. Oromo Scholars and Professionals

33. Oromo Seniors Welfare & Benevolent Association In Victoria (OSWBAV) Inc.

34. Oromo Society of Science and Technology

35. Oromo Studies Association

36. Oromia Support Group

37. Our Redeemer Oromo Evangelical Churc

38. Tawfiq Islamic Center

39. Tawhid Oromo Islamic Center in Minnesota

40. Tumsa Sochii Haqa Oromoo

41. Union of Oromo Communities in Canad

42. United Oromo Chirstian Church in Australi

43. United Oromo Evangelical Churc

44. Wabii Maccaa Association

45. Washington DC Metropolitan Oromo SDA Church


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